Monday, 20 July 2009

Remember The Awe

Recall the familiar, if not yet proverbial, tune of Rule Britannia by James Thompson with music by Thomas Arne.

The lyrics of the chorus to the sung version ('Rule, Britannia' is a poem originally), please let me draw your attention to the part in italic...
Rule Britannia!
Britannia rule the waves
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.
Rule Britannia!
Britannia rule the waves.
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.

Never, never, never shall Britons be slaves, quite patriotic it is and the tunes of which have reverberated long into this century. It has touched hearts and minds, it has even permeated the darkest depths of political thought for who could well forget Margaret Thatcher's famous "No! No! No!" - speech?

As you might have guessed there is darker tone, a more deleterious background and an altogether lost sense of what the song was written for of what it was supposed to represent.

If we roll back the clock to the time of the Magna Carta Libertatum, signed by King John of England in the year 1215 (actually there is no evidence that King John could write but it did bear his seal). I will again give the readers of this account the benefit of the doubt and assume them scholarly knowledgeable of the Great Charter. Non-believers of this charter seem to think that even though it has been amended through the ages (quite a few times actually) and that it initially only applied to aristocracy and large landowners, makes it defunct today for all swathes of society even aristocracy and large landowners (I hope you can spot the stupidity of this argument even though Lord Mandelson likes to sport himself part of the 21st century aristocracy...) This is the view held by the EU apologist Nosemonkey.

Lets address this shall we?

The most famous of its sixty-three clauses said that no free man could be imprisoned, outlawed or exiled except by the lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land, and that justice could not be sold, delayed or denied. It also contained clauses relating to the treatment of heirs and widows and to the payment of debts. It provided for uniform measures of wine, ale, corn and cloth throughout the realm. It confirmed the liberties of the Church and of all cities and towns and it sought to regulate the conduct of all local officials such as sheriffs, bailiffs and constables and ensure that they knew and observed the law.

The most significant part of this transfigured into what we today know as habeas corpus - directly from clauses 36, 38, 39, and 40 of the 1215 Magna Carta.

Did you know that habeas corpus only applied to aristocracy and large landowners? /sarcasm.

We have now come some way in constructing what to many is the best legal system ever to have seen the light of the sun, but we are not quite there yet.

The 1689 Bill of Rights is what is most important and significant for the whole purpose of this post. The official name of the act is

An Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the
Subject and Settling the Succession of the Crown

Fancy you might think and I would quite agree. What it did in a massive slap-in-the-face-of-history summary was to establish that Parliament was the ruling power of England and subsequently Great Britain which was formed in 1707. We will not go into detail of the document the entirety which can be found here. There is however one very important clause which must be discussed, repeated and proclaimed over and over again...

“No foreign prince, person, prelate, state or potentate hath or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm”

Before going into what this in turn has to do with Thomas and Arne let me again rub my heal into the balls of the EU apologetics who claim the Bill of Rights is obsolete because King William III, a Dutchman, passed it into law. Upon which they also add that a quarter of a century later the crown passed to a German King George I, who spoke no English (why they add this bit I do not know).
  • Charles I of England (19 November 1600 – 30 January 1649) had Scotish and Danish parents - what does that make him? To the apologetics he certainly is not English. He was even born in Fife well before the UK came into being.
  • Edward III of England (13 November 1312 – 21 June 1377) had a French mother and a English father - what on earth does that make him, he is of course not English with the apologetics.
  • Stephen of England (c. 1096 – 25 October 1154) this poor fellow was born in France, had a french mother AND a french father he was really really really not English even though he was king - according to the apologetics.
As you can see their little argument that because a king happens to not be of a nationality, that was not even properly defined back then (they did not have fancy biometric passports like we do today), he can thus not sign a treaty and hence the treaty itself is not valid. Logic?

But here is what it really burns down to because of what was said in the Bill of Rights the EU is by virtue illegal. I do not have enough judicial or constitutional knowledge to know by what authority our parliament has signed away our liberties through the following treaties and accessions, all I know is that they have:
  1. European Convention of Human Rights (Human rights should always be upheld as the highest virtue of a nation but it should be arbitrated by the state itself).
  2. European Communities Act (1972)
  3. Treaty of Maastricht (1992)
  4. Treaty of Amsterdam (1997)
  5. Treaty of Nice (2002)
  6. Treaty of Lisbon (20??)
Alas I recall the famous lines of Rule Britannia; 'Britons never, never, never shall be slaves' this was true for centuries upon centuries and Britain, though not infalliable not at all, had created the finest form of democracy the world has ever known and probably will ever know again. At the end of the line, as we turn of the lights and enter the world of Hypnos, remember the awe and remember the days when we were free for it will be a long long time until we are again.

With this I take my leave for a couple of weeks during which blogging will be quite sparse.


Nosemonkey said...

The only fundamental of the British constitutional system is that no parliament can bind another. Magna Carta predates parliament - but that does not make it exempt from the rule.

On the habeas corpus side of things - you have heard of feudalism, right? Which carried on for several centuries after Magna Carta was signed, and which was basically indentured slavery. Habeas corpus has also been suspended by parliament several times during periods of war (that whole "no one parliament can bind another" thing again) - and is also one of the "fundametal rights" of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, which would - if the Lisbon Treaty is passed - for the first time *force* the British state to hold habeas corpus (among other things) sacrosanct.

By the by, your "know this" section in your sidebar is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of British *and* European law. (Something I assume you've picked up from the Devil's Kitchen? DK and I have argued about this in pubs on occasion - he's still wrong.)

First of all, the "Napoleonic" system that you claim to be so incompatible with the "British" is the same as that used in, erm... Scotland. We've had two different legal systems operating side-by-side for centuries with no problems.

Secondly, the "guilty until proven innocent" claim for the European system is a misunderstanding of an anachronism. Because *every single EU member state* is a signatory of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the Council of Europe's Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The latter currently has opt-outs - the first two don't. Common to all three is a commitment to the principle of innocent until proven guilty.

You say you don't have "enough judicial or constitutional knowledge to know by what authority our parliament has signed away our liberties" - well I do, and can tell you in detail, if you really want (short version: despite common assumptions, in Britain the people are not, nor ever have been sovereign - and parliament has no compulsion under the British constitution to act in the best interest of the people; it is this single fact about the way the British constitution works that confirmed me to be in favour of some form of European Union as a way of protecting us from the abuses of an over-strong government, much as we've experienced in the last 12 years).

In the meantime I suggest you pick up a copy of Walter Bagehot's "The English Constitution" - over a century out of date but still a good starting point. You should be able to pick it up second-hand on Amazon for about £3. It'll be an invaluable investment, considering the focus of your blog - though you should probably think about getting Anthony King's more recent "The British Constitution" (OUP, 2007) to get yourself more up to date.

Tim said...
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Tim said...

Hurrah to Nosemonkey, well said and spot on.

Can I ask the right honourable gentleman Spitifre whether he has no way of voting for the EU nor for Regional Government?

If you do, how come you are signing away freedom to those institutions? Also, being from a land estranged of these isles, I am pretty certain that there are no countries in the EU where you are guilty until proven innocent, no matter how loud you say it here, it is not true.

13th Spitfire said...

Dear Gentlemen thank you for your replies! I am on holiday now but will answer in two weeks time.

Love Spitfire

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